It started out well enough. The pain specialist in the spine department--let's call him Dim--was friendly and respectful, and did a quick and gentle exam of my neck. Then he brought me into his office, offered a seat while he communicated with his computer as he complained that electronic medical records were ruining his practice. I sympathized; he continued on about how this keeps him up at night, then asked me many questions that had nothing to do with my neck, presumably required by the machine he was facing.
Psychology + Zen = Philosophy and methods to relieve suffering and reveal happiness.
Psychology: We project onto others what we reject in ourselves. Some call it a Shadow. Healing comes from making the unconscious conscious, taking responsibility for our projections, integrating what is split off as our own thing.
Zen: There is no separate self. When we can be at one with every aspect, then we belong everywhere and we reject no one.
We heal the world by becoming intimate with our whole selves.
"Well, she is more contemporary," the young lady clarified when I looked mystified. We were at a networking event for filmmakers and actors, and I had boldly raised my objection to the disappearance of older women. She responded by kindly offering hope that things were changing, and presented Julianne Moore as an example of an aging star. Thinking hard, she filled out her list of two by including an actress in her 30s.
I didn't see it coming.
Unlike the high drama and torture of last year, this zen retreat was relatively uneventful, which is to say it was a veritable cauldron of long-forgotten demons, physical pain, boredom, and large helpings of bliss. Nothing special. So, when I came home I was surprised to discover vast swaths of freedom in my life where previously there were tiny little congested closets.
Even before I saw Birdman, a Facebook debate captured my attention. One avid intellectual questioned why another would call a movie pretentious if it aspires to be arty rather than sensational. My first attempt to see it was foiled by a sold-out house, but finally I managed to score a seat. Already by the opening sequence--so beautiful and evocative--I felt little bubbles of happiness, and then the sight of Michael Keaton's naked back, levitating while meditating, was strangely moving.
My heart filled with hope when I witnessed this march, both because of the energetic young black leadership and because of the honesty and participation of white folk. sorry I didn't realize I could turn my new iphone sideways, but still...
It's not all fun and games. That ridiculous clown up there making us laugh has an inner life too, and sometimes it hurts. In a profound and quite enjoyable workshop with master clown René Bazinet, the topic of demons popped up. Rewarded for their failures, applauded for their most embarrassing moments, clowns are reinforced for roughly the opposite of what is normal behavior. For those who lap up attention and approval (are there really performers who don't?), such conditions can produce some mighty twisted stuff. So in performances that invite intimacy and truth, we are sure to see clown innards
Do clowns have a purpose? Those of you who are old enough may understand what happens as you begin to glimpse mortality.On occasion at least, the inclination to cling to this narrow self drops away and we begin to consider what we transmit to the ever-changing world in which we have such a teeny cameo. Whether or not we plan it, we do transmit, and so it is with clowns, but some use the platform to show us something important.
"It's not as big as I thought," observed the clown after he stripped. This was the second time in one weekend I was treated to a naked penis on stage (no, I will not tell you which performances; it's a surprise). What better way to reveal powerlessness beneath bravado? It's a theme I've seen again and again in the NY Clown Theatre Festival,
Love and War. What else is there? Ok, there are dishes to do, so we can stop and think about love, or war, or the love of war, or the war of love. Freud famously obsessed about sex and aggression, even when all those other stressed-out Victorians tried not to notice. Civilization depends on good manners, so you can be sure that the clown, who treads where ordinary humans are too polite to go, will usually be mucking around in love or war, or both together. In my last post, I extolled the virtues of "Fuck You!" in freeing the clown to play. But...Love. Love is what powers the clown. Love is why the clown meets the audience, well mostly, anyway.
In the marvelous Burden of Poof, the shimmeringly vulnerable Poofy du Vey expresses her struggle with her longing for love. As she goes into the audience to find helpers, we can see she is both terrified and compelled to connect. Don't we often make neat little systems to contain screamingly undefinable important matters? Poofy makes a touching to-do list, containing perfectly normal tasks, and,
Finally, the clown took stock, gathered herself, and delivered the message to the teacher: fuck you.
I gasped, then exhaled to partake in the laughter. "More of that," said the teacher, and the clown delivered: "FUCK YOUUU!!"...middle finger in full salute, body crouched, shaking with rage and pride, she expressed the truth of her experience, and it was absolutely hilarious.